Batman 4K Blu-ray
Warner Brothers has finally released four Batman films to the video market in the 4K format.
The just-released titles include the two Tim Burton-directed films Batman and Batman Returns, both featuring Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight, and rounding out the releases, the two subpar Joel Schumacher-directed films Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. The later films starred Val Kilmer and then George Clooney as the Caped Crusader and are considered by many to be the weakest Batman films ever made.
The first film was released in 1989 and was truly the beginning of what would become the new age of “Batmania.” Featuring then-superstar Jack Nicholson as The Joker and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale, and a soundtrack by Prince, and it raked in over 400 million at the box office. Keaton is a standout as both Bruce Wayne and as Batman, but the film has not aged well, and proves that Tim Burton is more of a set designer more than a director. The look of the film is stellar but the story and acting choices are wildly dated.
Ask yourself if Batman would do this?
Would Batman really run up 20 flights of stairs to the top of a clock tower when he has a utility belt filled with gadgets? Would Alfred ever bring Vicki Vale into the Batcave? Could The Joker really shoot the Batplane out of the air with a rifle? The answer is no to all of those questions.
As for Nicholson’s portrayal of The Joker… it’s not good. Jack’s idea of The Joker is to just let the make-up do the work and Nicholson ends up playing the iconic villain as just an extension of his own celebrity persona. There’s even a scene in which The Joker wears the same Wayfarer sunglasses made famous by Nicholson himself. In the end the film just doesn’t really work. It was cool to finally see Batman hit the big screen but in the end the film rates a 5 out of 10.
Three years later Keaton and Burton were back for 1992’s Batman Returns. Their second outing had double the budget of the first film but in the end only made about half of the monetary returns that Batman pulled in.
This time out Batman had a better fitting costume and faced off against two key members from his “Rogues Gallery” in the form of Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and The Penguin (Danny DeVito). Pfeiffer is the standout here as a thief who wants to steal both jewels and Batman’s heart. Pfeiffer chews the scenery in a good way and her portrayal of Catwoman still holds up.
As for The Penguin, Tim Burton chose to make him a some sort of monster and this depiction just doesn’t work. If this is supposed to be the real world then this half-mutant fish man just makes zero sense. And, as if two villains weren’t enough, Burton also throws in another over-actor, Christopher Walken as Max Shrek. The whole film is just jammed packed with too many villains and not enough Batman.
On the whole I still feel Batman Returns is a better film than Batman but not by much so this film rates a 6 out of 10.
The third entry in the Batman franchise comes in the form of 1995’s Batman Forever, and if you think Tim Burton never quite got it right then wait until you see the mess director Joel Schumacher started. Michael Keaton wisely stepped away from the role making way for Val Kilmer to don the cape and cowl.
Kilmer is okay as Batman but once again the script just piles on too much nonsense and too many villains. We get Jim Carrey as The Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent. On paper Carrey seems like the perfect choice to play a Batman nemesis, but the execution here is amateur hour. Carrey looks good in the skin tight question mark-adorned suit but that’s about as much credit as I can give him.
Batman Forever: wasted talent
Jones as Harvey Dent makes zero sense since Dent is supposed to be strikingly good looking and Jones is definitely not. Jones’ craggy face just doesn’t work as the good looking half of Two-Face’s scarred mug. If you squint you can barely tell the difference. Nicole Kidman is along for the ride as Bruce Wayne’s new love interest and it’s a wasted role for this fine actress. The movie also finally introduces us to Robin the Boy Wonder portrayed not as an eager young nerd but as a man, in the form of Chris O’Donnell. O’Donnell is just too old for the part and just annoying in the role.
Batman Forever could have been a fresh start to the franchise but Schumacher dropped the ball big time and handed us the beginning of the end. 4 out of 10.
Batman & Robin
The first round of Batman films comes to a close with the 1997 film Batman & Robin. Instead of reeling in the extravagant Schumacher in the studio, apparently the decision was, let’s him run wild. This is the biggest disaster of them all.
Poor George Clooney steps into the role of Batman and is given a whole pile of campy dialogue. It’s not his fault the movie is unwatchable and George is actually good in the scenes between Bruce Wayne and Alfred. Chris O’Donnell is unbelievably bad in this film as writer Akiva Goldsman choose to write a weirdly 30 year old Robin as a complete whiny brat. Everything in this film looks like a backlot set filled with neon lights and glow in the dark paint. It’s as if a 1st grader made a Batman diorama and the filmmakers superimposed the actors in front of it. The villains this time out are the cringe-inducing Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and flavor of the week Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.
Schwarzenegger is laughable in this role and the stupid dialogue doesn’t help at all. Lines like “I’ll put you on ice” are just ridiculous and Joel Schumacher obviously did zero research when it came to making a Batman film, even though he’d made one already. He just doesn’t get it. Did he watch the 60’s TV series? For sure! Did he even come close to capturing the fun camp of that world? Nope, not even close.
Batman, Batgirl, wait, what?
Alicia Silverstone is also introduced as Batgirl and it makes no sense whatsoever. She play Alfred’s rebel niece and then by the end of the film she has a costume, a mission and is Batgirl. That’s literally her origin story. So dumb. So unwatchable. When I saw this movie on opening day at the theatre there was a 10 year old sitting behind me and half way through the film he turned to his mom and said, “I’m done with this movie.” You and me both kid, you and me both. It’s hard to believe that there is nothing to like in this film but that’s the truth… 0 out of 10
Batman Re-releases 4K
If you are a fan of the first four Warner Brothers Batman films then you will enjoy these re-releases. The picture and sound are perfect and there are quite a few extras to keep you entertained for hours. If you dislike them as much as I do then save your money.
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Pat Francis currently hosts the popular comedy/music podcast “Rock Solid,” called 1 of the 8 great music podcasts to put in your ears by USA Today and featuring artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Sammy Hagar and Susanna Hoffs. His frequent appearances on Jimmy Pardo’s top rated podcast “Never Not Funny” are fan favorites. Pat began his entertainment career as a stand-up comic in Chicago, IL. After touring the country and performing in 42 states at comedy clubs and colleges, he relocated to Los Angeles, CA. There he appeared as a comedian on Comedy Central, AMC, the UCB and is a yearly regular at the San Francisco Sketchfest. For the past 5 years he has also served as Co-Host of the yearly event Pardcast-A-Thon which to date has raised over 700,000 for Smile Train. When not entertaining people in person he also makes his living as a Story Producer for reality television programs. It is also important to know that Pat is a monkey in a human mask.